Private sector firms bid to improve North East Lincs children’s services

North East Lincolnshire Council’s children’s department will become
the first integrated service to face private sector intervention
next month, despite improvements in children’s social

Two firms have been invited to help run its learning and child care
directorate for three years in a government-ordered move, despite
the fact only its education service is deemed to be failing.

Children’s social services came under fire during the Bichard
inquiry into the Soham murders when it emerged that social workers
had failed to deal adequately with allegations of underage sex
involving Ian Huntley.

But the Commission for Social Care Inspection said the department
was improving.

The decision raises the spectre of a spate of wholesale
interventions in children’s services based on poor performance in
just one area, with the introduction of integrated inspections this

North East Lincolnshire chief executive George Krawiec, while
welcoming the support, said: “The council has done a lot of work to
improve children’s social services…The [government] obviously
decided that, because of the Children Act, [it] would do it for the
whole of children’s services.”

Last year’s Ofsted report – the trigger for the intervention – said
the council’s financial and performance management in education
were poor, as were its prospects for improvement.

One children’s services commentator said: “It doesn’t seem to me
that you need full-scale intervention if there are particular bits
of the service that need to develop.”

However the intervention also highlights the problems councils face
in integrating children’s social care and education, which must
fall under a single director by 2008.

Though a forerunner in this respect, having integrated in 2001,
Ofsted said North East Lincolnshire had combined services “in name

Krawiec said the intervention, which he said was backed by
“substantial” government funding, was in part designed “to get the
integration going”.

Questions have also been raised about the council’s decision to
turn to the private sector rather than another local authority
along the lines of Kent’s agreement to help Swindon’s zero
star-rated social services department.

It has selected a consortium of education consultants Mouchel
Parkman and children’s social care specialists Outcomes UK, as
preferred bidder.

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